An influential Iraqi cleric on Tuesday called on his supporters to withdraw from the Green Zone, where they have been mobilized with security forces in the deep escalation of the months-long political crisis that has gripped the country. They exchanged fierce attacks.
In a televised speech, Muqtada al-Sadr gave his supporters an hour’s expulsion.
The riots broke out on Monday, When Al Sadr announced he was retiring from politics And his supporters stormed the Green Zone, once home to US forces and now home to Iraqi government offices and foreign embassies. Officials said at least 30 people were killed.
Al-Sadr’s party won the largest share of seats in the October parliamentary elections, but not enough to secure a government majority, leaving the Iraqi government in a stalemate, with numbers between different Shiite factions increasing. Months of infighting have been unleashed. Al-Sadr has refused to negotiate with its Iran-backed Shiite rival, and his withdrawal on Monday has plunged Iraq into political uncertainty and instability with no clear path forward.
Iran closed its border with Iraq on Tuesday – a sign of Tehran’s concerns that chaos could spread.
The country’s vital oil continued to flow, and the global benchmark Brent crude oil trade fell slightly.
The day after they raided the Green Zone, al-Sadr supporters fired both machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades on live television into the heavily fortified area through part of the demolished concrete wall. I could see it. Security forces armed with machine guns inside the zone sporadically returned fire. Some bystanders filmed the shootout on their cell phones, but most hid behind the still-standing walls and grimaced as bullets cracked nearby.
A line of armored tanks stood on the other side of the barrier surrounding the Green Zone when Sadr’s troops opened fire, but they were not using heavy artillery. At least one of his wounded from al-Sadr’s forces was taken away in a three-wheeled rickshaw, with the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs visible in the background. Even from a place several kilometers away, a single point of black smoke was rising.
At least 30 people have been killed and more than 400 injured, two Iraqi medical officials said. The toll included both an al-Sadr supporter killed in the previous day’s protests and clashes overnight. Those numbers are expected to rise, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the journalists weren’t authorized to release the information.
When Saddam Hussein ruled the country for decades, the Shia Muslim majority members of Iraq were oppressed. His 2003 US-led invasion of overthrowing Sunni Saddam has turned the political order upside down. Just under two-thirds of him in Iraq is Shia and one-third is Sunni. Now, after the Americans have largely withdrawn from the country, the Shiites are fighting among themselves, with Iran-backed Shiites and Iraqi nationalist Shiites declining for power, influence, and state resources. It’s an explosive rivalry in a country where trade and ties between people are still strong but many stand in the way of the Iranian government’s influence.
Iraq and Iran fought a bloody war that killed a million people in the 1980s.
Al Sadr’s nationalist rhetoric and reform agenda resonate strongly with his supporters, who are largely from Iraq’s poorest and historically barred from the political system under Saddam. Al-Sadr’s announcement to leave politics implicitly gave his supporters the freedom to act as they saw fit. and the military-imposed curfew.urged the Iranians Avoid traveling to neighboring countries.
The decision came at a time when millions of people were preparing to visit Iraq for their annual pilgrimage to Shiite sites, and Tehran was asking Iranian pilgrims already in Iraq to give the city Kuwait, meanwhile, called on its citizens to withdraw from Iraq. His state-run news agency KUNA has also urged those wishing to travel to Iraq to postpone their plans.
The tiny Gulf Emirates of Kuwait shares a 254-kilometer (158-mile) long border with Iraq. The Netherlands has evacuated its embassy in the Green Zone, Foreign Minister Wopke Hekstra tweeted early Tuesday morning.
“Firefights are raging around the embassy in Baghdad. Our staff are now working at the German embassy in another part of the city,” wrote Hoekstra.
Dubai’s long-haul carrier Emirates suspended flights to Baghdad on Tuesday, citing ongoing unrest. The carrier said it was “closely monitoring the situation.” It has not announced when flights will resume.
On Monday, protesters loyal to the Sadr pulled down a cement barrier outside the government palace with ropes and breached the palace gates. Thousands flooded the palace’s opulent salons and marble halls, an important meeting place for Iraqi heads of state and foreign dignitaries. The Iraqi army has announced a nationwide curfew, and the interim prime minister has suspended a cabinet meeting in the face of violence.